Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) with GNOME 3
|Company / developer||Debian Project|
|Initial release||September 15, 1993|
|Latest release||7.6 (Wheezy) (July 12, 2014[±])|
|Available in||73 languages|
|Update method||APT (several front-ends available)|
|Platforms||ARM, IA-32, IA-64, MIPS, PowerPC, S390, SPARC, x86-64|
|Kernel type||Monolithic: Linux, kFreeBSD
Micro: Hurd (unofficial)
|Default user interface||GNOME|
|License||Free software (mainly GPL). Proprietary software in a non-default area.|
Debian (//) is an operating system which is composed primarily of free software, most of which is under the GNU General Public License, and developed by a group of individuals known as the Debian project. Debian is one of the most popular Linux distributions for personal computers and network servers, and has been used as a base for several other Linux distributions.
Debian was first announced in 1993 by Ian Murdock, and the first stable release was made in 1996. The development is carried out over the Internet by a team of volunteers guided by a project leader and three foundational documents. New distributions are updated continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based freeze.
As one of the earliest Linux distributions, it was envisioned that Debian was to be developed openly in the spirit of Linux and GNU. This vision drew the attention and support of the Free Software Foundation, which sponsored the project for the first part of its life.
Debian is primarily a Linux distribution with access to online repositories which contain over 37,500 software packages. Debian officially contains only free software, but non-free software can be downloaded from the Debian repositories and installed. Debian includes popular free programs such as LibreOffice, Iceweasel web browser, Evolution mail, K3b disc burner, VLC media player, GIMP image editor and Evince document viewer. Debian is a popular choice for web servers.
The cost of developing all of the packages included in Debian 5.0 Lenny (323 million lines of code) has been estimated to be about US$ 8 billion, using one method based on the COCOMO model. As of 2014[update], Ohloh estimates that the codebase (78 million lines of code) would cost about US$ 1.5 billion to develop, using a different method based on the same model.
The current stable release, code-named Wheezy, is officially supported on thirteen architecture ports, introducing s390x and armhf. Notable new features in this release include: multiarch, which allows 32-bit Linux software to run on 64-bit operating system installs; UEFI support for amd64; improved multimedia support, reducing reliance on third-party repositories; compiled packages with hardened security flags; AppArmor, which assists in protecting a system against unknown vulnerabilities; and systemd, which ships as a technology preview.
Debian supports two kernels, Linux and kFreeBSD, and offers GNU Hurd unofficially. GNU/kFreeBSD is released as a technology preview for Intel and AMD 32-bit and 64-bit architecture machines, and still lacks the amount of software available in Debian's Linux distribution. There are several flavors of the Linux kernel for each port; for instance, IA-32 has flavors for older PCs, for PCs supporting Physical Address Extension and real-time computing, and for 64-bit PCs. The Linux kernel does not officially contain firmware without sources, although such firmware is available in non-free packages and alternative installation media.
Debian offers DVD and CD images for installation that can be downloaded using BitTorrent, with jigdo and bought from retailers. The full sets are made up of several discs (the amd64 port consists of 10 DVDs or 69 CDs), but only the first disc is required for installation, as the installer can retrieve software not contained in the first disc image from online repositories. Installation images are hybrid on some architectures and can be used to create a bootable USB drive. The default desktop may be chosen from the DVD boot menu among GNOME, KDE Software Compilation, Xfce and LXDE, and from special disc 1 CDs. The Debian installer includes aids for visually-impaired people, featuring in Wheezy a textual mode that performs audio output for each stage of installation. Debian offers different network installation methods. A minimal install of Debian is available via the "netinst" CD, whereby Debian is installed with just a base and later additional software can be downloaded from the Internet. Another option is to boot the installer from the network.
Debian offers CD images specifically built for GNOME (the default in Wheezy), KDE Software Compilation, Xfce and LXDE. MATE is officially supported, while Cinnamon is not ready to be released as of July 2014[update]. Less common window managers such as Enlightenment, Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM, Window Maker and others are available.
The default desktop environment of version 7.0 Wheezy was temporarily switched to Xfce, because GNOME 3 did not fit on the first CD of the set. In November 2013, the default for the future version 8.0 Jessie was changed again to Xfce. Demand for Xfce will be evaluated and the default environment may switch back to GNOME just before Jessie is frozen.
Debian releases live install images for CDs, DVDs and USB thumb drives, for IA-32 and x86-64 architectures, and with a choice of desktop environments. These "Debian Live" images allow the user to boot from removable media and run Debian without affecting the contents of their computer. A full install of Debian to the computer's hard drive can be initiated from the live image environment. Personalized images can be built with the live-build tool for discs, USB drives and for network booting purposes.
Package management operations can be performed with different tools available on Debian, from the lowest level command dpkg to graphical front-ends like Synaptic. The recommended standard for administering packages on a Debian system is the apt toolset.
dpkg provides the low-level infrastructure for package management. The dpkg database contains the list of installed software on the current system. The dpkg command tool does not know about repositories. The command can work with local .deb package files as well as information from the dpkg database.
GDebi is an APT tool which can be used in command-line and on the GUI. GDebi can install a local .deb file via the command line alike the dpkg command, but with access to repositories to resolve dependencies. Other graphical front-ends for APT include Software Center, Synaptic and Apper.
Three distributions, also called releases, are maintained at any one time:
Other distributions in Debian:
The snapshot archive provides older versions of the distributions. They may be used to install a specific older version of some software.
The Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) define the distinctive meaning of the word "free" as in "free and open source software". Packages which comply with these guidelines, usually under the GNU General Public License, Modified BSD License or Artistic License, are included inside the main area; otherwise, they are included inside the non-free and contrib areas. These last two areas are not distributed within the official installation media, but they can be adopted manually.
Non-free includes packages which do not comply with the DFSG, such as documentation with invariant sections and proprietary software, and legally questionable packages. Contrib includes packages which do comply with the DFSG but fail other requirements; for instance, they may depend on packages which are in non-free or requires such for building them.
Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation have criticized the Debian project for hosting the non-free repository and because the contrib and non-free areas are easily accessible, an opinion echoed by some in Debian including the former project leader Wichert Akkerman. The internal dissent in the Debian project regarding the non-free section has persisted, but the last time it came to a vote in 2004, the majority decided to keep it.
Debian Pure Blends are subsets of a Debian release configured out-of-the-box for users with particular skills and interests. For instance, Debian Jr. is targeted at children. The complete Debian distribution includes all available Debian Pure Blends. "Debian Blend" (without "Pure") is a term for a Debian-based distribution that strives to mainstream, improving Debian as a whole. Consequently, all extras offered by Blends will either become part of Debian, or are temporary workarounds to solve a need of the target group which cannot yet be solved within Debian.
Multimedia support has been problematic in Debian regarding codecs threatened by possible patent infringements, without sources or under too restrictive licenses, and regarding technologies such as Adobe Flash. Even though packages with problems related to their distribution could go into the non-free area, software such as libdvdcss is not hosted at Debian.
There is a notable third party repository, formerly known as debian-multimedia.org, providing software not present in Debian such as Windows codecs, libdvdcss and the Adobe Flash Player. Despite that this repository is maintained by Christian Marillat, a Debian developer, it is not part of the project neither is hosted at Debian. As a matter of fact, the repository provides packages already included in Debian, interfering with the official maintenance. Eventually, project leader Stefano Zacchiroli asked Marillat to either settle an agreement about the packaging or to stop using the "Debian" name. Marillat chose the latter and renamed the repository to deb-multimedia.org. The repository was so popular that the end of debian-multimedia.org was announced by the official blog of the Debian project.
Hardware requirements are at least those of the kernel and the GNU toolsets. Debian GNU/Linux supports uniprocessor and symmetric multiprocessor systems. Debian's recommended system requirements depend on the level of installation, which corresponds to increased numbers of installed components:
|Install desktop||Minimum RAM size||Recommended RAM size||Minimum processor clock speed (IA-32)||Hard drive capacity|
|No||64 MB||256 MB||1 GB|
|Yes||128 MB||512 MB||1 GHz||5 GB|
The real minimum memory requirements depend on the architecture and may be much less than the numbers listed in this table. It is possible to install Debian with as little as 20 MB of RAM for s390, or 60 MB of RAM for x86-64. The installer will run in low memory mode and it is recommended to create a swap partition. Similarly, disk space requirements, which depend on the packages to be installed, can be reduced by manually selecting the packages needed. As of August 2014[update], there is no Pure Blend that would lower the hardware requirements easily.
It is possible to run graphical user interfaces on older or low-end systems, but the installation of window managers instead of desktop environments is recommended, as desktop environments are more resource-intensive. Requirements for individual software vary widely and must be considered as well as those of the base operating environment.
There used to be an arm port using an old ABI (OABI) that was last included with the Lenny release.
Debian supports a variety of ARM-based NAS devices. The NSLU2 was supported by the installer in Debian 4.0 and 5.0, and Martin Michlmayr is providing installation tarballs since version 6.0. Other supported NAS devices are the Buffalo Kurobox Pro, GLAN Tank, Thecus N2100 and QNAP Turbo Stations.
Devices based on the Kirkwood SoC are supported too, such as the SheevaPlug plug computer and OpenRD products. There are efforts to run Debian on mobile devices, but this is not a project goal yet since the Debian Linux kernel maintainers would not apply the necessary patches. Nevertheless, there are packages for resource-limited systems.
There are efforts to support Debian on other hardware, such as automobiles and wireless routers. Debian is known to run on set-top boxes. As of June 2014[update], there is an ongoing work to support the AM335x processor, which is used in electronic point of service solutions. Debian may be customized to run on cash machines.
Several parts of Debian are translated into languages other than English, including package descriptions, configuration messages, documentation and the website. The level of software localization depends on the language, ranging from the highly supported German and French to the hardly translated Creek and Samoan. The installer is available in 73 languages.
Debian GNU/Linux is one of the most popular Linux distributions, and many other distributions have been created from the Debian codebase, including Ubuntu and Knoppix. As of 2014[update], DistroWatch lists 135 active Debian derivatives. The Debian project provides its derivatives with guidelines for best practices and encourages derivatives to merge their work back into Debian. A sign of cooperation with Ubuntu can be seen in the Debian package tracker.
Debian is known for its manifesto, social contract, and policies. Debian's policies and team efforts focus on collaborative software development and testing processes. As a result of its policies, a new major release tends to occur every two years with revision releases that fix security issues and important problems.
The Debian project is a volunteer organization with three foundational documents:
|Source: Debian Voting Information|
Debian developers are organized in a web of trust. There are at present[update] about one thousand active Debian developers, but it is possible to contribute to the project without being an official developer.
The project maintains official mailing lists and conferences for communication and coordination between developers. For issues with single packages and other tasks, a public bug tracking system is used by developers and end users. Internet Relay Chat channels (primarily on the OFTC and freenode networks) are also used for communication among developers and to provide real time help.
Debian is supported by donations made to organizations authorized by the leader. The largest supporter is Software in the Public Interest, the owner of the Debian trademark, manager of the monetary donations and umbrella organization for various other community free software projects.
A Project Leader is elected once per year by the developers. The leader has special powers, but they are not absolute, and appoints delegates to perform specialized tasks. Delegates make decisions as they think is best, taking into account technical criteria and consensus. By way of a General Resolution, the developers may recall the leader, reverse a decision made by the leader or a delegate, amend foundational documents and make other binding decisions. The voting method is based on the Cloneproof Schwartz Sequential Dropping.
Project leadership is distributed occasionally. Branden Robinson was helped by the Project Scud, a team of developers that assisted the leader, but there were concerns that such leadership would split Debian into two developer classes. Anthony Towns created a supplemental position, Second In Charge (2IC), that shared some powers of the leader. Steve McIntyre was 2IC and had a 2IC himself.
One important role in Debian's leadership is that of a release manager. The release team sets goals for the next release, supervises the processes and decides when to release. The team is led by the next release managers and stable release managers. Release assistants were introduced in 2003.
The Debian project has an influx of applicants wishing to become developers. These applicants must undergo a vetting process which establishes their identity, motivation, understanding of the project's principles, and technical competence. This process has become much harder throughout the years.
Debian developers join the project for a number of reasons; some that have been cited include:
Debian developers may resign their positions at any time or, when deemed necessary, they can be expelled. Those who follow the retiring protocol are granted the "emeritus" status and they may regain their membership through a shortened new member process.
Each software package has a maintainer that may be either one person or a team of Debian developers and non-developer maintainers. The maintainer keeps track of upstream releases, and ensures that the package coheres with the rest of the distribution and meets the standards of quality of Debian. Packages may include modifications introduced by Debian to achieve compliance with Debian Policy, even to fix non-Debian specific bugs, although coordination with upstream developers is advised.
The maintainer releases a new version by uploading the package to the "incoming" system, which verifies the integrity of the packages and their digital signatures. If the package is found to be valid, it is installed in the package archive into an area called the "pool" and distributed every day to hundreds of mirrors worldwide. The upload must be signed using OpenPGP-compatible software. All Debian developers have individual cryptographic key pairs. Developers are responsible for any package they upload even if the packaging was prepared by another contributor.
Initially, an accepted package is only available in the unstable distribution. For a package to become a candidate for the next stable release, it must migrate to the testing distribution by meeting the following:
Thus, a release-critical bug in a new version of a shared library on which many packages depend may prevent those packages from entering testing, because the updated library must meet the requirements too. From a distribution viewpoint, the migration process happens twice per day, rendering testing in perpetual beta.
Periodically, the release team publishes guidelines to the developers in order to ready the release. A new release occurs after a freeze, when all important software is reasonably up-to-date in the release-candidate distribution and any other significant issues are solved. At that time, all packages in the testing distribution become the new stable distribution. Although freeze dates are time-based, release dates are not, which are announced by the release managers a couple of weeks beforehand.
A version of a package can belong to more than one distribution, usually testing and unstable. It is possible for a package to keep the same version between stable releases and be part of oldstable, stable, testing and unstable at the same time. Each distribution, also called suite, can be seen as a collection of pointers into the package "pool" mentioned above.
The Debian project handles security through public disclosure rather than through obscurity. Debian security advisories are compatible with the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures dictionary, are usually coordinated with other free software vendors and are published the same day a vulnerability is made public. There used to be a security audit project that focused on packages in the stable release looking for security bugs; Steve Kemp, who started the project, retired in 2011 but resumed his activities and applied to rejoin in 2014.
The stable distribution is supported by the Debian security team; oldstable is supported for one year. Although Squeeze is not officially supported, Debian is coordinating an effort to provide long-term support until February 2016, five years after the initial release, but only for the IA-32 and x86-64 platforms. Testing is supported by the testing security team, but does not receive updates in as timely a manner as stable. Unstable's security is left for the package maintainers.
The Debian project offers documentation and tools to harden a Debian installation both manually and automatically. Security-Enhanced Linux support is available but disabled by default. Debian provides an optional hardening wrapper, and does not harden its software by default using gcc features such as PIE and buffer overflow protection, unlike operating systems such as OpenBSD, but tries to build as many packages as possible with hardening flags.
In May 2008, it was revealed that a Debian developer discovered that the OpenSSL package distributed with Debian and derivatives such as Ubuntu, made a variety of security keys vulnerable to a random number generator attack. The security weakness was caused by changes made in 2006 by another Debian developer in response to memory debugger warnings. The complete resolution procedure was cumbersome because patching the security hole was not enough; it involved regenerating all affected keys and certificates. Being introduced by Debian, the vulnerability caused anger and embarrassment among Debian developers.
Stable and oldstable releases get minor updates, called point releases. As of July 2014[update], the stable release is version 7.6, code name Wheezy, and the oldstable release is version 6.0.10, code name Squeeze. The numbering scheme for the point releases up to Debian 4.0 was to include the letter r (for revision) after the main version number and then the number of the point release; for example, the latest point release of version 4.0 (Etch) is 4.0r9. This scheme was chosen because a new dotted version would make the old one look obsolete and vendors would have trouble selling their CDs.
From Debian 5.0 (Lenny), the numbering scheme of point releases was changed, conforming to the GNU version numbering standard; the first point release of Debian 5.0 was 5.0.1 instead of 5.0r1. The numbering scheme was once again changed for the first Debian 7 update, which was version 7.1. The r scheme is no longer in use, but point release announcements include a note about not throwing away old CDs.
The code names of Debian releases are names of characters from the Toy Story films. The unstable distribution is permanently nicknamed Sid, after the emotionally unstable next-door neighbor boy who regularly destroyed toys. Debian 7 was named Wheezy, after the rubber toy penguin in Toy Story 2. The release after Wheezy was named Jessie, after the cowgirl in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.
Debian has made twelve major stable releases:
|Version||Code name||Release date||Ports||Packages||Supported until||Features|
|Old version, no longer supported: 1.1[A]||Buzz||Jun 17, 1996||1||474||Old version, no longer supported: -||Old version, no longer supported:||ELF, Linux 2.0|
|Old version, no longer supported: 1.2||Rex||Dec 12, 1996||1||848||Old version, no longer supported: -||Old version, no longer supported:||-|
|Old version, no longer supported: 1.3||Bo||Jun 5, 1997||1||974||Old version, no longer supported: May 1998||Old version, no longer supported: ||-|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.0||Hamm||Jul 24, 1998||2||≈ 1,500||Old version, no longer supported: Feb 1999||Old version, no longer supported:||glibc|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.1||Slink||Mar 9, 1999||4||≈ 2,250||Old version, no longer supported: Oct 2000||Old version, no longer supported:||APT|
|Old version, no longer supported: 2.2||Potato||Aug 15, 2000||6||≈ 3,900||Old version, no longer supported: Jul 2002||Old version, no longer supported:||-|
|Old version, no longer supported: 3.0||Woody||Jul 19, 2002||11||≈ 8,500||Old version, no longer supported: Jun 2006||Old version, no longer supported:||Cryptography|
|Old version, no longer supported: 3.1||Sarge||Jun 6, 2005||11||≈ 15,400||Old version, no longer supported: Mar 31, 2008||Old version, no longer supported: ||Modular installer|
|Old version, no longer supported: 4.0||Etch||Apr 8, 2007||11||≈ 18,000||Old version, no longer supported: Feb 15, 2010||Old version, no longer supported: ||Graphical installer|
|Old version, no longer supported: 5.0||Lenny||Feb 14, 2009||12||≈ 23,000||||Old version, no longer supported: Feb 6, 2012||Old version, no longer supported: ||Eee PC|
|Older version, yet still supported: 6.0||Squeeze||Feb 6, 2011||11||≈ 29,000||||Older version, yet still supported: May 31, 2014||Older version, yet still supported: [B]||Dependency-based booting, free firmware|
|Current stable version: 7||Wheezy||May 4, 2013||13||≈ 36,000||||Current stable version: TBA||Current stable version:||Multiarch|
|Future release: 8||Jessie||TBA[C]||TBA||TBA||Future release: TBA||Future release:||-|
Debian was first announced on August 16, 1993, by Ian Murdock, who initially called the system "the Debian Linux Release". The word "Debian" was formed as a combination of the first name of his then-girlfriend Debra Lynn and his own first name. Prior to Debian's release, the Softlanding Linux System (SLS) had been a popular Linux distribution and the basis for Slackware. The perceived poor maintenance and prevalence of bugs in SLS motivated Murdock to launch a new distribution.
Debian 0.01, released on September 15, 1993, was the first of several internal releases. Version 0.91 was virtually the first public release, providing support through mailing lists hosted at Pixar. The release included the Debian Linux Manifesto, outlining Murdock's view for the new operating system. In it he called for the creation of a distribution to be maintained openly, in the spirit of Linux and GNU.
The Debian project released the 0.9x versions in 1994 and 1995. During this time it was sponsored by Free Software Foundation's GNU Project. Ian Murdock delegated the base system, the core packages of Debian, to Bruce Perens and Murdock focused on the management of the growing project. The first ports to non-IA-32 architectures began in 1995, and Debian 1.1 was released in 1996. By that time and thanks to Ian Jackson, the dpkg package manager was already an essential part of Debian.
In 1996, Bruce Perens assumed the project leadership. Perens was a controversial leader, regarded as authoritarian and strongly attached to Debian. He drafted a social contract and edited suggestions from a month-long discussion into the Debian Social Contract and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. He initiated the creation of the legal umbrella organization, Software in the Public Interest. He led the conversion of the project from a.out to ELF. He created the BusyBox program to make it possible to run a Debian installer on a single floppy, and wrote a new installer. By the time Debian 1.2 was released, the project had grown to nearly two hundred volunteers. Perens left the project in 1998.
Ian Jackson became the leader in 1998. Debian 2.0 introduced the second official port, m68k. During this time the first port to a non-Linux kernel, Debian GNU/Hurd, was started. On December 2, the first Debian Constitution was ratified.
From 1999, the project leader was elected yearly. The Advanced Packaging Tool was deployed with Debian 2.1. The amount of applicants was overwhelming and the project established the new member process. The first Debian derivatives, namely Libranet, Corel Linux and Stormix's Storm Linux, were started in 1999. The 2.2 release in 2000 was dedicated to Joel Klecker, a developer who died of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
In late 2000, the project reorganized the archive with new package "pools" and created the testing distribution, made up of packages considered stable, to reduce the freeze for the next release. In the same year, developers began holding an annual conference called DebConf with talks and workshops for developers and technical users. In May 2001, Hewlett-Packard announced plans to base its Linux development on Debian.
In July 2002, the project released version 3.0, code-named Woody, the first release to include cryptographic software, a free licensed KDE and internationalization. During these last release cycles, the Debian project drew considerable criticism from the free software community because of the long time between stable releases.
Some events disturbed the project while working on Sarge, as Debian servers were attacked by fire and hackers. One of the most memorable was the Vancouver prospectus. After a meeting held in Vancouver, release manager Steve Langasek announced a plan to reduce the number of supported ports to four in order to shorten future release cycles. There was a large reaction because the proposal looked more like a decision and because such a drop would damage Debian's aim to be "the universal operating system".
The 3.1 Sarge release was made in June 2005. This release updated 73% of the software and included over 9,000 new packages. A new installer with a modular design allowed installations with RAID, XFS and LVM support, improved hardware detection, made installations easier for novice users, and was translated into almost forty languages. An installation manual and release notes were in ten and fifteen languages respectively. The efforts of Skolelinux, Debian-Med and Debian-Accessibility raised the number of packages that were educational, had a medical affiliation, and ones made for people with disabilities.
In 2006, as a result of a much-publicized dispute, Mozilla software was rebranded in Debian, with Firefox becoming Iceweasel and Thunderbird becoming Icedove. The Mozilla Corporation stated that software with unapproved modifications could not be distributed under the Firefox trademark. Two reasons that Debian modifies the Firefox software are to change the non-free artwork and to provide security patches.
Debian 4.0 (Etch) was released in April 2007, included the x86-64 port but dropped support for m68k, and featured a graphical installer. Debian 5.0 (Lenny) was released in February 2009. Support was added for Marvell's Orion platform and for netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC, but support was dropped for 32-bit SPARC machines. The release was dedicated to Thiemo Seufer, a developer who died in a car accident.
In July 2009, the policy of time-based development freezes on a two-year cycle was announced. Time-based freezes are intended to blend the predictability of time based releases with Debian's policy of feature based releases, and to reduce overall freeze time. The Squeeze cycle was going to be especially short; however, this initial schedule was abandoned. In September 2010, the backports service became official, providing more recent versions of some software for the stable release.
Debian 6.0 (Squeeze) was released in February 2011, introduced Debian GNU/kFreeBSD as a technology preview, featured a dependency-based boot system, and moved problematic firmware to the non-free area. Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) was released in May 2013, featuring multiarch support. At present[update], Debian is still in development, working on the unstable distribution.
Throughout Debian's lifetime, both the Debian distribution and its website have won various awards from different organizations, including Server Distribution of the Year 2011, The best Linux distro of 2011, and a Best of the Net award for October 1998.
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